Some Thoughts On Clean Reader

(The below post contains, of necessity some profanity. If you are offended by such words you may wish to stop reading now).

Today’s Guardian has an article about Clean Reader, an application which allows the user to reduce or eliminate the amount of profanity in a book, ( The author’s contention is that Clean Reader is a silly idea but, in the final analysis readers have the right to put their own interpretation on the books they read. So, for example the owner of a print book is at liberty to cross out words they don’t like provided they don’t pass off the amended text as constituting the author’s original work.

My concern as an author is that Clean Reader alters the original meaning of my work. Take, for example my short story Samantha. In Samantha we meet a young woman who has been forced into prostitution by her brutal pimp, Barry. For reasons of authenticity Samantha contains scenes of violence and, yes the use of profanity. For instance Sam is told by Barry not to let a client “anywhere near your sweet little fuck hole” until he has paid. This is how a man of Barry’s stamp, a brutal pimp with no respect for women, would address those who he controlls. Yet Clean Reader would render “fuck” as “love” making Barry’s words risible as no pimp would refer to a vagina as “a love hole”.

To take another example, Nick, the client Sam is visiting, says that he wants to “fuck”. Nick’s desire for sexual gratification has nothing whatever to do with romance so to change “fuck” to “love” as Clean Reader would is to render the story risible and to change it’s meaning to boot.

I don’t want anyone to be offended by Samantha or any of my writing for that matter. However if someone downloads Samantha I fervently hope that they read it as written. If a tool such as Clean Reader is utilised the true horror of Sam’s situation is sanitised (I.E. forced prostitution is portrayed in a downright risible manner with clients making love, rather than “fucking” sex workers).

In conclusion, I have concerns regarding Clean Reader, specifically that it has the potential to alter the author’s original meaning and convey an inaccurate view of the work being read. I suspect though that most readers will avoid the app and, given time it will fade into obscurity or cease to exist completely.

6 thoughts on “Some Thoughts On Clean Reader

  1. Josh Wrenn

    I hope you are right. Artistic integrity is at stake, If someone doesn’t like a book or story the way it is written, they always have and always will have the option to put it down.

  2. stuartaken

    Let’s hope you’re right about the potential demise of Clean Reader. However, it’s clearly an app with deeply religious undertones, and we all know how idiotic the adherents of Bible Belt philosophy can be, so I suspect this perversion of literature will be around for as long as those who have a fear of anything that questions their beliefs.

    1. drewdog2060drewdog2060 Post author

      Thank you for your comment. I agree that the app has an appeal to those who fear having their beliefs contradicted. However I guess that many fundamentalists (of whatever religious persuasion) would not read anything which contradicts their views anyway. For example I know many fundamentalists who reject the idea of Darwinian evolution have never read any of Darwin’s works due to a fear of undermining their belief system. Knowing how technologically savvy many teenagers are I suspect that if a parent installs this or a similar app to prevent their children from reading certain content, the teenager will easily circumvent the application.


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